Paul has been passionate about writing for over 35 years. He has also worked as a bookseller and librarian. He lives in Florida.
I've been earning a living writing online for around 15 years, and before that, I was writing for print for decades. Over the course of my career, I believe that I've learned a lot about how to maintain quality and productivity. Writing, in my experience, is about adopting as many good habits and routines as you can while managing to stave off the bad ones.
While it's true that there are many different types of writing, and each writer might have their own individual process, I do believe that productive writers often have much more in common than many people think when it comes to their approach to writing. The advice in this article includes information I've gleaned by following the advice of other writers, and by learning from my own successes and missteps. Below are five rules I stick by that help me produce writing on a daily basis. I hope that other writers find them helpful as well.
5 Ways to Write on a Daily Basis
- Set aside time to write and stick to it
- Set (realistic) targets
- Leave some water in the well
- Remember that editing is just as important as writing
- Work first thing in the morning whenever possible
1. Set Aside Time to Write and Stick to It
I learned fairly quickly that if I didn't schedule certain times to write and strictly adhere to them, then often either the writing wouldn't happen, or I would achieve much less than I intended.
We all have multiple time pressures operating in our lives. On top of that, many of us procrastinate or become distracted easily when working on projects. I generally enjoy writing, but there are still times when I'd avoid it if there was an excuse. Scheduling a set writing time makes it easier to avoid temptation.
Even if you just sit with your laptop for two hours and achieve very little for a few days, it's better than nothing, Why? Because establishing a regular routine is in many ways vital.
I would also recommend putting yourself in a situations where there are zero distractions during your writing periods. I used to listen to music, but I've even eschewed that in recent years.
2. Set (Realistic) Targets
Another way to ensure high productivity can be to set writing targets. For example, I am going to finish editing article A today and get through writing at least half of article B.
Alternatively, you can set a target that involves writing a specific amount of words. This is especially useful with longer projects, such as writing a novel.
The most important (and perhaps most difficult) thing is to set a target that is both achievable and challenging The downside of this approach is that the time period you spend writing can vary quite a bit. Sometimes, the words flow out of you, and other times, you are slower.
3. Leave Some Water in the Well
This phrase comes from Ernest Hemingway's advice on writing. He meant it in two ways. First, don't spend all your writing energy one day such that the next day you have nothing to give.
Second, never finish a writing session without knowing how you are going to start again the next day. Generally, this means it's better to leave a project partway through so that you can come back to it and immediately start where you left off.
Writers' block is most common at the start of a project. If you have a blank page in front of you, it's easy to become paralyzed by prevarication, get restless, or try lots of different things but struggle to commit to any of them. Always remember that being a productive writer is about maintaining momentum.
4. Remember That Editing Is Just as Important as Writing
Writing is more than just typing. You are trying to convey ideas, emotions, and events in an efficient and effective way. Few writers can do that in one draft. Most writers are like me; they have to tweak or rewrite sections of their work.
In my experience, editing can transform mediocre or even badly written work into polished pieces that are professional in appearance and enjoyable to read. It amazes me how many writers don't take editing seriously.
Ideally, before you edit, it's great to get feedback from other writers. If this isn't possible, then put the work aside and come back to it another day with a fresh eye. A month is a good period of time, but even leaving it overnight and coming back to it in the morning is better than nothing.
5. Work First Thing in the Morning Whenever Possible
This is probably my most controversial piece of advice, but the truth is that there are many writers who swear by the practice of writing for at least a few hours first thing every morning, and I am one of them.
Writing in the afternoon or at the end of the day may seem appealing, but often, that's when we are tired and in our most easily distracted state. Things that happened during the day may be floating around in our heads, and that can make it hard to fully focus on the task at hand.
Of course, many writers don't get to choose the times when they write. Other pressures such as jobs, college, and childcare mean that they just don't have that luxury. They have to write whenever they get the chance, and some are able to make that work for them. I've been in that situation too, and I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with that. It's just less efficient, in my experience. Get up early, and you'll be more productive.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paul Goodman